HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It's an incurable virus that attacks and weakens a person's immune system. A person infected with HIV is said to be HIV-positive. AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a syndrome that is diagnosed when a person's immune system has been weakened by HIV. This is when an infected person becomes seriously sick.
You CANNOT get HIV from: casual kissing, hugging, playing sports with or being a friend with someone who is HIV positive, or from contact with saliva, tears, or sweat.
How do you get/give it?
You can get HIV by coming into contact with infected body fluid. This fluid has to enter into your body through an opening such as a cut, sore or mucous membrane. The fluids that can contain HIV include blood, semen, vaginal fluid, anal fluid and breast milk. HIV is a blood-borne infection (BBI).
HIV can be spread by:
- Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person.
- Sharing needles and/or drug preparation equipment with someone who is infected.
- Sharing needles for tattooing, skin piercing or acupuncture.
- Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before or during delivery.
How can you tell if you have it?
You can have HIV and not know it because you may be symptom-free for many years. You may develop a mild flu 2 to 4 weeks after becoming infected. You can still pass on the virus to someone else without knowing you have it1.
How do you get tested?
Testing for HIV means checking your blood for HIV antibodies (fighter cells) to see if you have ever been in contact with HIV.
Where do I get tested?
Testing is available through your doctor's office or onsite through the Sexual Health Clinic. Anonymous HIV testing is available through the Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Fort Frances and Red Lake Sexual Health Clinics.
How is it treated?
There is no cure for HIV. Once a person is HIV positive, they will have the infection for the rest of their life. There are medications that HIV positive people take to help keep them healthy and their immune system strong.
How do I not get HIV?
You can reduce your risk of HIV infection by never sharing needles or drug preparation equipment. Another great way to protect yourself is to not have sex. If you choose to have sex, you should use a condom every time, even if you are using birth control, to lower your chance of getting HIV or other STIs. Free condoms are available through the health unit.
If you are sexually active, finding a method of birth control that is right for you is the best way to prevent pregnancy. Contact your local Sexual Health Clinic to discuss your options.
1Source: Public Health Agency of Canada. STI. Centre for Communicable Diseases and Infection Control, Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Branch, Public health Agency of Canada; 2012.